Europe struggling with green energy

A proposal to label certain investments green in natural gas and nuclear power plants has provoked backlash from environmentalists and heightened tensions between the 27 member countries.

Last year, the European Union set itself the ambitious goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Now, a proposal to label certain investments green in natural gas and nuclear power plants has provoked reactions negative reactions from environmentalists and has exacerbated tensions between the 27 member countries.

The response to the European Commission’s plan has been pervasive, especially with regard to nuclear energy. France, which gets around 70% of its electricity from nuclear power plants and wants up to 14 new reactors by 2050, is the most vigorous supporter of the new proposal, along with nine others, mostly from Eastern Europe. , which also depend on nuclear energy. . Germany, which plans to phase out its three remaining reactors by the end of the year, leads the opposition to “green” status for nuclear energy, but supports a green label for gas, on which it relies. Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg and Austria are also on the anti-nuclear side, which have even threatened to take legal action against the proposal in the EU Court of Justice.

The EC, which has dogged the proposal for months, hoped to avoid such divisions. According to the guidelines, new nuclear power plants must have construction permits before 2045 and be able to safely dispose of radioactive waste. A gas plant can be considered green if it emits less than 270 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity (which is considered quite high) or annually emits less than 550 kg of CO2 per kWh over 20 years, on the condition of switching to carbon-free gas by 2035.

Yet nuclear power still raises concerns about accidents; and the gas, which has been marketed as a clean alternative to coal, releases more methane – a greenhouse gas more than 25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere – than previously thought previously. Recent events highlight a crucial geopolitical source of unease around natural gas as the bloc’s energy mainstay: Europe depends on Russia for around 40% of its gas imports.

In a press release, the EC stressed that gas and nuclear should be considered as transient sources. Yet a compromise that satisfies all parties still seems out of reach.

Mary I. Bruner